Fine Art Photography Series
Richard Avedon

Biography of Fashion Photographer.

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One of the top fashion photographers
in America.

Richard Avedon (1923-2004)


Richard Avedon's Photography
Recognition and Awards
Exhibitions and Collections
Profiles of Other Famous Photographers

For a brief explanation of technical
and historical terms, please see:
Art Photography Glossary.

Richard Avedon's Photography

Together with contemporaries Cecil Beaton (1904-80), Norman Parkinson (1913-90), Irving Penn (1917-2009) and Yousuf Karsh (1908-2002), the American artist Richard Avedon was one of the greatest photographers in fashion and portraiture during the 20th century. Experienced in both independent and commissioned fine art photography, he set the pace in various genres, while simultaneously teasing them and testing their limits. As a portraitist and fashion photographer, he virtually invented a series of photographic styles. Indeed, his creative eye helped to shape America's image of style, beauty and culture since the 1960s. He was the lead cameraman for both Harper's Bazaar and Vogue, and an important contributor to various other magazines including Life and Look. He was a regular photographer for Gianni Versace, Calvin Klein Jeans, Revlon, Chanel, Dior, and many others. His portraiture included photos of numerous celebrities including: Buster Keaton, Ezra Pound, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Marilyn Monroe, Andy Warhol, Christopher Reeve, Saul Bellow, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George Bush Sr, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Stephen Sondheim, and many others. In addition, as is now becoming clear, he also created a substantial body of documentary photographs during the late 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. Avedon's most expensive photo is Dovima with Elephants (1955), which was auctioned in November 2010, at Christie's in Paris for $1,151,976.

See also: the History of Photography (c.1800-1900), for a short account of how early camera technology evolved. For early pioneers, see: 19th-Century Photographers.


Born Richard Avonda in New York City to Jewish Russian parents. 1937-1941, DeWitt Clinton High School in New York. 1941-1942, studies at Columbia University. 1942-1944, serves in the merchant marine. 1944-1950, studies under Alexey Brodovitch (1898-1971) at the New School for Social Research. Own studio from 1946.

1945-1947, contract photographer for Junior Bazaar under Brodovitch and Carmel Snow (with Henry Wolf, Marvin Israel, Ruth Ansel, and Bea Feitler as later art directors). 1957, consultant for Stanley Donen's film Funny Face. 1958, voted one of the ten most important photographers by Popular Photography. 1962 first museum exhibition (arranged by Marvin Israel).

1966 switches to Vogue under Diana Vreeland and Alexander Liberman (1912-99). 1985-1992, publishes exclusively in Egoiste. 1994 staff photographer for the New Yorker. Martin Munkacsi (1896-1963) becomes the model for this fashion photography innovator (outdoor and in the studio) always interested in typography/layout. In addition, independent series: Street photography, especially portraits, generally against a neutral (white) background. Best-known are his portraits of his father (marked by his impending death), Jacob Israel Avonda. 1970 brings out his monograph on the French photographer Lartigue: Diary of a Century. Also TV commercials, campaigns for Chanel, Dior, Versace, and Calvin Klein.

Compare the edgy 1970s fashion photos of another Vogue camera artist, Helmut Newton (1920-2004).

1979, commissioned by the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, to produce portraits of people in the American west. His 125 photos of drifters, cowboys, prospectors and others from the western United States became a travelling exhibit (and best-selling book) entitled In the American West. Compare the work of Eugene Atget (1857-1927), Walker Evans (1903-75), Ben Shahn (1898-1969) and Dorothea Lange (1895-1965). For a postmodernist comparison, see the work of Annie Leibovitz (b.1949)

Recognition and Awards

Avedon received many awards for his photography, including: a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America (1989); the Hasselblad Award (1991); the International Center of Photography Master of Photography Award (1993); the Prix Nadar (1994) for his photobook Evidence; the Berlin Photography Prize (2000); a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Arts Council (2003). A significant contributor to modern art in America, he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2001) and an Honorary Fellow (HonFRPS) of the The Royal Photographic Society (2003).

For a brief discussion of the aesthetics and evolution of lens-based art, see: Is Photography Art?

Selected Exhibitions and Collections

Unless stated all shows are solo events.

1962 Washington DC (Smithsonian Institution - 1972)
1970 Minneapolis (Minnesota) (Institute of Arts)
1974 New York (Museum of Modern Art)
1975 New York (Marlborough Gallery)
1978 New York (The Metropolitan Museum of Art - 2003)
1980 Berkeley (California) (University of California)
1985 Fort Worth (Texas) (Amon Carter Museum)
1994 New York (Whitney Museum of American Art)
2001 Wolfsburg (Kunstmuseum)
2007 Berlin (Camera Work)
2007 Humlebaek (Denmark) (Museum of Modern Art)
2008 Milan (Forma)
2008 Paris (Jeu de Paume)
2008 Berlin (Martin-Gropius-Bau)
2009 Amsterdam (Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam)
2009 San Francisco (Museum of Modern Art)
2009 New York (International Center of Photography)

Avedon's work is represented in a number of public collections, notably those of the Museum of Modern Art NYC; the Metropolitan Museum of Art NYC; Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, Washington DC; Amon Carter Museum, Ft. Worth, Texas; and the Pompidou Centre, Paris.

Photographs by Richard Avedon are regularly exhibited in some of the best galleries of contemporary art across America.



Profiles of Other Famous Photographers

In addition to those camera artists mentioned above, here is a short list of the best known photographers of the 20th century.

Charles Sheeler (1883-1965) Factory photos
Man Ray (1890-1976) Dada, fashion
Paul Strand (1890-1976) Exponent of straight photography
John Heartfield (Helmut Herzfeld) (1891-1968) Dada photomontages
Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004) Street photography, surrealism
Robert Capa (1913-54) War photographer
Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-89) Figurative images and still lifes
Jeff Wall (b.1946) Staged photography
Nan Goldin (b.1953) Feminist camera art
Cindy Sherman (b.1954) Surrealistic self-portraits
Andreas Gursky (b.1955) Architecture, landscapes

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